The view from the observatory at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is stunning, and free.

Tokyo A to Z

I love Tokyo.  Its unique paradoxical character which I have yet to experience anywhere else is a big reason for why it’s my favourite city in the world.

In one breath, Tokyo is a modern, futuristic city where millions of people work (hard) and play (harder).  From glistening glass and steel structures scraping the skyline, to a transportation system which is eerily efficient, to a digital culture which has nearly universal acceptance and literacy by old and young – Tokyo is the most evolved of any 21st-century city.

Yet, in the same breath, Tokyo is a place where formal, button-down, traditional culture permeates everyday life.  There are unspoken rules about how to do the most basic of tasks, a groupthink on what’s acceptable and unacceptable in public, and constant (and still functioning) elements of Japan’s history dotting the landscape.  Tokyo may be contemporary, but it remembers where it came from.

While there is a multitude of reasons to embrace it, I have chosen 26 for this post (A to Z) on why I love Tokyo.

Read moreTokyo A to Z

Episode 36 – Learning Japanese

Before we launch in to this week’s show notes, a quick note on a major disaster here in Canada.  The Fort McMurray wildfire has caused more than 80,000 people to be displaced as fire has ravaged a number of homes and businesses in the northern Alberta city.

The Canadian Red Cross is a fantastic organization helping those who are in emergency shelters and other accommodations since many people left with the clothes on their backs and the few items they could cram in to a suitcase.

For Canadians wanting to donate to the relief effort, you can pledge $5 by texting REDCROSS to 30333.  To donate $10, text FIRES to 45678.  These will be billed to your cell phone account.

If you’re not in Canada or wish to pledge using the Red Cross’ online donation form, you can do so by clicking here.


Before going to Japan, I was trying to brush up on my Japanese using an app called iTranslate Voice.  It wasn’t going so well.

Despite my frustrations with the app, my time in Japan went really well and I even picked up on some basic pleasantries and started to recognize some of the Kanji characters used in their writing system.

However, considering I love Japan – and I’ve visited so many times – I feel like I should become better versed in the language.  I should strive to at least be literate.  And so it was the gift of Japanese textbooks from Chris that have helped launch me in to actually buckling down and starting to learn the language.

Learning to write Hiragana characters is helping me remember them and the sounds they make.
Learning to write Hiragana characters is helping me remember them and the sounds they make.

On this week’s episode, I talk about the challenge that lies before me, and what I have identified as my first major task – to understand the Hiragana writing system (one of three writing systems used in the Japanese language).

I’ll be updating my progress on future podcast episodes and with posts on the website.


Thank You, Japan

When I arrived in Tokyo in September, the idea of spending three months abroad in another country was just that – an idea.  The longest I had ever been away from Canada was three weeks – and that was as a kid on a road trip pilgrimage to Walt Disney World on summer holidays.

But here I am, 98 days later (89 before Christmas, 9 after a visit back to Canada for Christmas) putting on my backpack, ready to leave, having effectively lived in Japan for the better part of three months.

Read moreThank You, Japan